The Candidates Forum kicked off the start of the Students’ Union (SU) election on Monday, bringing a fresh slate of vice-president (operations and finance) candidates with them — Emily Kimani and Julia Villoso. Leaving the forums, I felt both candidates had potential but each had unique gaps in their platform that remain unaddressed.
When looking for the platforms of these candidates, I was expecting Kimani to be the one to take the lead. Her platform was available first thing this morning and her ideas about embracing Black History Month at the SU and offering bulk foods in SUBmart got my attention. However, her opponent Villoso really brought it to the forum and took me by surprise. While Villoso’s platform was similar in many regards, it was less extensive and initially less appealing — but her forum performance made up for it.
Her answers were well thought out, articulate and took the pandemic into greater consideration, acknowledging the challenges it will bring to the portfolio.
In the opening remarks, Kimani promised to focus on equity, inclusivity and diversity. She also raised how challenges faced by students have worsened under the current pandemic and budget cuts. As a result, she wants to focus on expanding mental health supports.
Contrastingly, Villoso started off by addressing mistrust in the SU. She called for transparency, greater advocacy and her goal of making the SU “as transparent as can be.” She seeks to do this with greater communication with students through social media.
She later went on to say she wants to create monthly updates with SU executives and what they have been working on — something the SU already largely does on their Facebook page. Her platform cites the SU’s new Instagram page as a form she wants to embrace further. Social media certainly has a lot of potential to bring transparency to the Students’ Union but it was unclear what Villoso had specifically planned in this regard.
Villoso also mentioned that all campus services must switch to an online format in order to be accessible and that this serves as a wake up call for the SU. Kimani alternatively mentioned her vague plan to optimize services and expand SU businesses multiple times. She discussed expanding catering services as an example. However, her comments about not wanting these businesses to lose money felt tone deaf to the business climate of the pandemic — especially since these businesses were struggling to break even before COVID.
When asked about what sets them apart, their answers were a bit disappointing. Kimani focused purely on her free menstrual products on campus idea and Empower Me, a mental health program covered by the SU health and dental plan. However, she neglected to talk about campus sustainability in any kind of detail or her bulk foods plan throughout the entire forum — two other things unique to her platform as well.
Villoso claimed she brought new and fresh ideas to the table while her opponent did not. She raised the idea that programs like Period Poverty and Empower Me are nothing new. Instead, her ideas about improving scholarship registries and focusing on IT projects as sources of revenue, such as UASU Perks, stand out compared to her opponent.
Overall, Kimani presented a better platform that was more detailed and extensive; however, her performance fell short today and felt a bit scripted and vague. After today’s forum I want to know how she plans on bringing in revenue while considering the limitations of COVID-19.
I’d like to know about the things Villoso fails to expand on in her platform: campus sustainability, how she will use social media in different ways to increase transparency, and how she will help transition services online.
In the wake of COVID-19, this position is extremely important and has to pivot from where it has gone in the past. Neither of these candidates so far have presented the comprehensive vision students need right now — but I have hope this will change over the campaign.